GIF Tips to Improve Email Marketing

You’ve seen them all over the internet and may even wonder how they’re made – from cute image sequences to funny clips of cats doing stunts. Of course, I’m talking about the GIF! Since being introduced in 1986, GIFs (Graphic Interchange Format) have taken the internet by storm.

Rising in popularity in 2006/2008, the GIF is now a staple of common internet practice. So how can you take advantage of this trend to increase your own business success? Include the GIF in your email marketing! Make your message stand out against the other emails competing for your client’s inbox with an eye-catching image display.

One example is to create a brief sequence of your best images:

Or just go crazy with a fun/goofy GIF featuring some of your employees. Seize the opportunity to pique your client’s interest about the fun that goes on at your studio!


Making GIFs is actually very easy. We utilize Camtasia for our video and GIF making purposes. Free services online, such as GIPHY, also allow you to make your own or to use pre-existing GIFs.

Flexibility & modernization is key in every industry. As trends change, it’s important to recognize when we need to change along with them.

And remember—have fun with it!


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Spectra vs myStratus – How are they Different?

While the structure of Spectra and myStratus is very similar, some rather large differences exist that really set the two softwares apart from each other. Let’s dig into the biggest differences between the two:

Color – First, and most obvious, is the color scheme. Instead of the traditional orange color of Spectra, myStratus showcases a blue coloring. Blue like the sky! myStratus is a cloud-based product, so the blue color scheme is quite fitting.

Data-Hosting – As I just mentioned, probably the biggest difference between the softwares is that myStratus hosts your data in the cloud. This means you’re able to access your database anywhere you find an internet connection! Spectra, on the other hand, is a locally hosted solution- fully controlled by your network. The biggest benefit of this functionality is that it allows you to work offline if your internet connection isn’t quite as reliable.

Cloud Features – One of the best aspects of myStratus is that, because it’s hosted in the cloud, it allows us to create and release “online” features which simply can’t be used in Spectra’s local format. Our most current examples of these types of features are Online Booking, Web Forms (e.g. Contact Us Forms), Online Referral Programs, and mobile-friendly image galleries. Because your myStratus database is hosted in the cloud, we’re able to utilize an instant connection with the database when clients go through their online process.

Data Maintenance – Because Spectra is a local system, controlled within your own network, you are also in charge of its maintenance. This includes setting up automatic processes within the system to allow Spectra to take care of itself. In doing this, you hold much of the power with your Spectra database – your security is in your hands. On the contrary, because your myStratus database is in the cloud, we’re able to manage all the extra security for you. This includes constant back-ups, data encryption, Automatic Disaster Recovery, and a lot more!

Apps – With Spectra, you only have the one Desktop app installed on your PC and it operates within your network. For myStratus, there are actually three ways to access your database:

  • Desktop App – Just like the Spectra desktop app, this full-featured app can be installed directly on your PC. This app is also a mirror of the Spectra Desktop app, so all features can be found in the same locations.
  • Web App – By utilizing an Internet Browser, such as Chrome or FireFox, you can access your myStratus database anywhere with an internet connection. The web app has limited access to features as compared to the Desktop App, but it’s still a great resource when you need to get to your database!
  • Mobile App – Available on Apple and Android devices, you can also install the myStratus Mobile app. This app allows you to view and edit basic information from your database. While it does require an internet connection in order to sync with your live database, the app can also work offline. You’ll be able to edit any information as it appears from your last sync, and when you eventually get back on the internet, the app will sync any changes you’ve made.

Pricing – Now let’s talk about a very important difference between Spectra and myStratus. In order to use Spectra, you must purchase the software. Starting with a 12-month payment plan, after purchasing the software, you can roll into an optional Monthly Maintenance plan that provides you continued Tech Support and any software updates we release. Regardless if you decide to continue with a maintenance plan, by purchasing the software, you fully own your license. For myStratus, the software is available as a subscription. You pay for the software as you need it. As well as the features/abilities listed in this blog post, the myStratus subscription also comes with Tech Support, Training, and any updates we release with the software.

Both softwares definitely feature their own strengths, and it all comes down to what will work best for YOUR business. We’re here to help you make the right decision in choosing which software will help your business be its most successful. If you’re still not sure which way to turn, click here to schedule a free one-on-one demo with one of our Product Specialists to see the software in action!

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Spectra vs myStratus – How are they Similar?

Looking at Spectra and myStratus side-by-side, they really aren’t that different – basically mirror images of each other. When we first released myStratus back in 2014, our engineers took the base code from our existing Spectra product and brought it into myStratus, and we’ve continued to expand on it ever since! Spectra’s features are all found in the same places in both softwares – with the exception of several product-specific features.

For those considering whether to make the jump to myStratus, we offer a complete conversion of your Spectra Database, so all your settings and information will move over to the new system. Meaning you can pick up right where you left off with almost no learning curve.

The structure behind both these software products is very similar, but the core behind them is very different. Next, we’ll review those key differences between Spectra and myStratus.

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Keeping Track: Time Stamps, Status Notes, and Audit Logs

Overseeing a group of employees can be time consuming. People make mistakes – it’s a part of being human. When something happens and you’re not sure exactly why it happened, it’s important to have tracking tools in place to determine How and Why something changed. Here are a few features to simplify your oversight tasks.

Time Stamps – Any time you’re working from the Notes tab of a record, just click the keyboard keys CTRL + T to leave a timestamp containing the date/time, as well as user initials of who entered the note.

Did you know we utilize myStratus here at StudioPlus to help operate our business? Whenever an employee needs to make a significant change to a record, we require them to leave a note with their timestamp detailing this change. Here’s what an entry might look like:

10/18/2018 11:00:04 AM MKH – Old Email Address: XXXX, updated to: XXXX. Client requested change 10/7/2018

So, if something’s ever entered incorrectly or we need to see why a change was made, we can check the Notes tab of a record to see the facts behind the change.

Status Notes – Another tracking option found on the Notes tab of a record are the Status Notes. These notes are automatically generated by Spectra/myStratus any time a specific action occurs on the corresponding record. Some instances this feature tracks: After a Status has been modified on any record, when a Session record’s date/time is modified as well as if it’s been marked Cancelled, Rescheduled, or On Hold, and if this record had an automatic communication (e.g. a Trigger or through the Communication Wizard). These Status Notes also include a timestamp as mentioned previously.

If you see a note entered with the letters SPSA, that indicates the modification done was system generated. This case might occur if a trigger was automatically sent out for a client record – this system generated action will automatically add to the Status Notes section with the SPSA pre-fix.

Remember, Status Notes are a read-only feature. No user can modify them.

Audit Logs – Notes are great and all, but what if a user forgets to add their note, or what if they delete a record altogether? This next feature is essential to tracking what goes on in your database. Audit Logs, when enabled, will track a variety of actions, such as when a record is created, modified, or deleted. While it does not state what changes were made to a record, it will explain who did the action, when, and which record was edited.

You can activate Audit Logging at Maintenance > Preferences > Audit Logging.

The following records can be activated for tracking:

  • Appointments
  • Clients
  • Invoices
  • Payments
  • Sessions
  • User Authentication (Security Overrides)
  • Invoice Discounts Applied

To view your logs, go to Utilities > Audit Trail Logs. See also: Audit Trail Logs

Don’t wait until something unexpected happens before implementing policies to hold your employees and yourself accountable. Set up these systems ahead of time – when something happens, as it inevitably will, you’ll be prepared.

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Set up your Yearbook Workflow! Day 5

Today’s is the last day for our training series on yearbook workflow – you’ll be happy to know it’s a simple one. If you followed closely during the past 4 posts, your yearbook workflow is going to be a breeze! While the set up takes some time, once you get going, you’ll notice how every detail plays an important role in making sure your workflow runs smoothly.

Just one topic’s left and that’s reporting on your students. Now this doesn’t involve a bunch of paperwork or a big presentation you need to sweat over. This reporting is handled by us and is meant to show you patterns in your workflow with schools.

Five reports are associated with Organizations – view them at Reports > Organization Reports as follows:

  1. Organization List – Shows a list of all Organizations as well as their Deadlines, Notes, and Contact Info.
  2. Organization Session List – Choose between one or all Organizations to view what sessions are scheduled for either a certain date range or a specific graduation year. This report also shows whether a student has selected their yearbook image.
  3. Organization Session List – Not Photographed – Choose between one or all Organizations to view what students have not yet completed their photo session. This includes: missed sessions, upcoming sessions, and unscheduled sessions.
  4. Organization Session Summary – Choose between one or all Organizations to view the statistics for the number of students vs. photographed and unphotographed students.
  5. Organization Yearbook Approval – Choose between one or all Organizations to view a student’s status with their yearbook image.
    • If the image has been prepared, the student’s image will appear.
    • If a student has selected an image, but it has not been prepared, the report will say Image Not Ready.
    • If the student does not have any images in their session folders yet, it will say Waiting on Images.
    • If the student is not even scheduled for their session, it will say Not Scheduled.
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Set up your Yearbook Workflow! Day 4

Once your clients have selected their yearbook image, whether in the studio or online, now’s the time to get the image Prepared. The process of preparing a yearbook image in the yearbook workflow is meant to accomplish two things:

  1. The Hi-Res image for that session will be cropped and adjusted to the organization’s yearbook standards.
  2. The finished image will get moved to a separate folder on that computer containing only that organization’s yearbook images.

To Prepare a yearbook image, the following criteria must be met:

  • The session must have images in its Hi-Res folder. This should have been done when the images were imported.
  • A Composite Template must be selected for that organization in either the Organization settings > Yearbook Option tab or the Company Preferences > Organization tab. (This was covered in a previous blog post)
  • The student’s Organization must have both DPI and Image Height (Pixels) for yearbook images set in its Organization settings > Yearbook Options tab.

To Prepare a yearbook image, open the student’s session record and go to the Organization tab. Next to where they have chosen their yearbook image, select Prepare. An example of the prepared image will appear and you can adjust it if necessary– click OK to finish.

The prepared image will get placed in the folder location chosen on the Organization tab in the Company Preferences.

This means at the end of your yearbook season, when you must deliver the yearbook images to your schools, you will have an easy-to-access folder that includes all the student’s images, already edited.

*Tip* Want to save yourself even more time? Check out our integration with AthenTech’s Perfectly Clear! You can even import all your images with a preset of your own design! Check out the amazing difference between the original and finished image that was used in this demonstration:

Click here to read more about Perfectly Clear!

Now your images are prepared, and the yearbook workflow is done! All that’s left is to keep on top of your organization reporting!

Extra Resources

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Set up your Yearbook Workflow! Day 3

Aside from just going to the Organization tab on a student’s session record and selecting their yearbook image at that location, students can also select their own yearbook image online from

As a quick recap, is an eCommerce site allowing your clients to view and purchase their images online. InspiredByYou is available as an optional add-on for Spectra users and is included in the subscription cost for myStratus users.

If you’ve not set up and would like to do so, click here to get started.

After you have set up, note these three settings that are very important to allow your clients to select their Yearbook Image online:

• Enable Online Yearbook Selection in the Preferences (Maintenance > Preferences > Preferences). This setting enables the online yearbook selection feature.

• Set the Student Selection Cut Off Date on the Yearbook Options tab in the Organization settings (Maintenance > Client > Organizations > Yearbook Options tab). This setting controls how long students can choose yearbook images online.

• Also set the student’s Session Type as an Organization / School session style in the Session Type Maintenance Detail screen (Maintenance > Session > Session Types > ‘Open the Session Type’ > General tab). This setting controls which sessions will have access to the online yearbook selection feature.

After the session is uploaded to InspiredByYou, if it’s been set up correctly, the student will have an extra icon in their lower menu that allows them to select their yearbook image.

After the student has selected their image online, you can download their selection by going to Tools > Synchronize > ‘check’ Download Yearbook Image Selections > Start Sync. This will download all yearbook selections made by your clients on InspiredByYou. Their selection will appear in the Yearbook Image section on the Organization tab of their session record. For myStratus users, this sync process automatically runs approximately every half hour.

*If you chose to create a Task any time a yearbook image is chosen, then the task will get created and assigned at this stage as well.

Now that you’ve selected the yearbook images for your clients, you can prepare the images! Check back later for more info!

Extra Resources

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Set up your Yearbook Workflow! Day 2

Today is short and sweet, but still very important. To prepare your yearbook images properly, you must set a Composite Template for the images to use to ensure the correct formatting is followed for each individual school.

Here’s the instructions to create a Composite Template for your yearbook images:

  1. Go to Tools > Design Tools > Digital Template Builder > New Template.
  2. Set the general settings based on the requirements from your organizations.
  3. Click New Drop Zone and give it the same dimensions as the template.
  4. Save Template

You can select which template to use in one of two places:

  1. Maintenance > Preferences > Company Preferences > Organizations tab. Select the composite template you want to use – this will be the default template used by all organizations.
  2. Maintenance > Client > Organizations > ‘Open the Organization’ > Yearbook Options tab. By selecting a template here, it will override the template chosen in the Company Preferences for students in this organization only.

Now that your Composite Template(s) are set up, you can work with your clients on selecting their yearbook images. Check back later for more info.

Extra Resources

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Set up your Yearbook Workflow! Day 1

The Yearbook Season’s just getting started for many studios; now is the perfect time to evaluate your own yearbook workflow practices. Yearbooks provide such a vital service to schools – not to mention the thousands of students involved in the yearbook process each year.

Many of our clients come to us in the heat of the yearbook season asking for guidance on the best way to handle their images. If you wait until you’re scrambling to catch up – with all the workflow set-up and finished sessions – you’ve already lost valuable time you can’t get back. Wouldn’t you prefer to have yearbook workflow simplified AND automated to boost your productivity and reduce expenses?

We’ve decided this week would be perfect to introduce a short learning series in our Learning Blog to go over our recommendation for best yearbook practices.

Here are the topics we’ll cover:

Day 1 – Setting up Organizations

Day 2 – Composite Templates

Day 3 – InspiredByYou and Selecting Images

Day 4 – Preparing Images

Day 5 – Reporting

Want more training series like this? That’s great! We’d also love to hear your feedback on this series. Click here to comment and let us know other series you’d like to see, and don’t forget to vote if you want to hear more from the Learning Blog!

Day 1 – Organizations

Once the initial set up of yearbook workflow is done, managing your client’s yearbook selections is simple! Today we’re focusing on setting up the schools, AKA Organizations.

Start by going to Maintenance > Client > Organizations. Select the + in the ribbon to get started on your School. Use the General tab to fill out all information you have regarding this organization, including the school’s Name, Code, Address, Phone Number, Yearbook Advisor, Principal, etc.

The next tab in the Organization Maintenance Detail screen is Yearbook Options. This screen is critical for your yearbook workflow. Each school has their own specifications for yearbook images. Every field on this tab must be filled out correctly for the yearbook workflow to function properly. We’ll cover the Yearbook Image Masking section in tomorrow’s topic.

The Custom tab is an option in case your business chooses to track additional information from schools that may not already be a field for the organization. You can set up your own custom fields by going to Maintenance > General > Custom Lists and Labels > Organization tab. Click here for more information on Custom Lists and Labels.


After each organization has been entered, one more menu needs to be set up. Go to Maintenance > Preferences > Company Preferences > Organizations tab.

The Yearbook Images section is the site where you plan to store the yearbook images on your computer. Please note that ALL workstations will draw from this location, so we recommend you use a location all computers can access.

The Composite Template section will be covered in tomorrow’s topic.

The Yearbook Tasks, Yearbook Status, and Organization Print Options sections are not required for the yearbook workflow but provide wonderful options for tracking purposes.


Now that your Organizations have been set up, you can create the Composite Template(s) you will use for the yearbook images! Check back tomorrow for more info!

Extra Resources:

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Boost your Delivered Emails and Click-Through Rates with StudioPlus Mail

Email providers are constantly on the look out for Spam or unlawful emails. What are you doing to ensure your own emails stay out of this scope? All email sending is built on trust – Email Providers and your clients are trusting they won’t be spammed by marketing emails. If that trust is broken, it’s very difficult to re-build your “sending reputation.” There can be ramifications to a damaged sending reputation as well, such as heavy fines and lost business.

We’re proud to offer our StudioPlus Mail add-on service, powered by SendGrid, which provides you the tools to keep your own email practices “top of the line.” Let’s take a look at some of these features.

Who is SendGrid and why are they special?

SendGrid is the power behind the StudioPlus Mail service. As the world’s largest provider of email infrastructure, they know a thing or two about email reputations and security. You may have even seen some of their work through industry leaders like Pinterest, Foursquare, Spotify, and Uber.

While you’re trying to build your own emailing reputation, SendGrid works tirelessly to keep their functionality as secure as possible. SendGrid is both Spam Law compliant and GDPR Compliant (EU). So if you’ve got SendGrid on your side, rest-assured your emails are in capable hands.

Not using StudioPlus Mail yet? Click here to learn more and view pricing.

Domain Authentication

When you sign up to use StudioPlus Mail as your email provider, you keep sending from your current “Domain” (e.g. Our Domain is “”), so you can keep sending emails to clients without missing a beat. But how do other email providers know it’s still your business sending those emails? Truthfully, they don’t. This can often lead email providers to view your emails as possible Spam.

SendGrid offers a great feature called “Domain Authentication” which allows you to prove to email providers that you are who you say you are.

From a visual perspective, clients will receive your emails as “ *Via*” when you use the StudioPlus Mail service. However, after authenticating your Domain through SendGrid, the *Via* will be removed and emails will be 100% from your business. It’s visually pleasing to clients and provides additional security to other email providers.

The actual process for Domain Authentication is quick, easy, and offers a huge impact to your email deliverability. Read more about the process here.

Delivery Statuses

After you send an email out from our software, it doesn’t disappear into space, only to re-surface in your client’s inbox. An email must navigate many roadblocks just to get to your client’s inbox, including going through Spam Filters.

SendGrid offers you the ability to see the stages of these roadblocks. These Delivery Statuses will show you whether your email was “Delivered” or “Blocked”, “Opened” or “Bounced”, and even let you know if a client clicks through a link on the email. Delivery Statuses provide a deeper look at how your emails are received by clients. If an email gets bounced from a bad email address, you’ll know to follow up with that client for a new email address.

For all users on StudioPlus Mail, you can see these Delivery Statuses through SendGrid’s online portal. If you utilize myStratus, this functionality is also built right into the software, to let you view these statuses in real time.

Click here to learn more about using Delivery Statuses with StudioPlus Mail.

Unsubscribe Links

Privacy laws seem to get stricter every day. An important part of these laws is giving your clients the ability to Unsubscribe, or “Opt. Out”, from your email marketing. SendGrid provides the power to automatically include an “Unsubscribe” link with your marketing emails. Including this link isn’t only important to your clients but also to email providers. You’re less likely to be regarded as Spam if your clients can simply unsubscribe from your marketing, and your sending reputation with email providers will remain high if you’re actively following the Privacy Laws of your area.

Like other aspects of the StudioPlus Mail service, this feature is directly integrated with our software and will automate itself after the initial set up.

Click here to learn more about setting up Unsubscribe links.


Overall, your clients want to feel like they can trust you when they decide to follow your business, and we know that’s your goal as well. Utilizing the StudioPlus Mail add-on gives you the confidence that your emails are helping to build that foundation.

The features mentioned in this blog post are just scratching the surface of all the StudioPlus Mail service has to offer. If you’re not already using the StudioPlus Mail add-on, click here to learn more and view pricing.

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